Friday Night Youth Club
A story by Partners in Play
We delivered the Friday Night Youth Club it is an additional & Complex needs specific club run by trained staff and volunteers.
It caters for young people age 12-18 years to provide social opportunities and friendships with peers, allowing parent/carers to have a short break.
What Friday Night Youth Club did
The Friday night youth club, based in Motherwell, ran for three hours every Friday night, creating a positive environment for the young people involved and changing the lives of the carers in a small but significant way. The primary aim of the club was to promote the inclusion of young people with disabilities and complex needs within a regular youth club alongside their peers. Young people could access the club from various locations throughout North Lanarkshire using a mini bus that was provided to ease any barriers to attending.
Running simultaneously to the club was a volunteer training programme, managed and overseen by trained support workers and supervisor. The presence of these peer mentors within the youth club created a fresh perspective, fostering the creation of positive relationships between the young people and volunteers.
From the humble origins of the project, and as co-partners in the planning of their weekly programme, the young people ensured there was a varied schedule of activities to enjoy.
This was facilitated by staff on a weekly basis. Some of the highlights of the project included; an animation workshop, boxing class, drum session, yoga, mini zoo, music, football, x box games, baking and cookery, make up trials, karaoke and visits from local police and firemen.
Parent/carers were very vocal about the difference the club had made to their own lives, as having regular respite at the same time every Friday night meant they had time to spend having dinner with their other half or simply relaxing after a difficult week. Knowing that their young person had a club that they enjoyed going to, in an environment suitable to meet their additional support needs, was invaluable to the enjoyment of their own respite as parent/carers.
What Partners in Play has learned
An important learning curve for our organisation was to learn the value and importance of volunteers and the contribution they can make to their peer group of young people with an additional support need. By harnessing their energy and enthusiastic for the role, we created a volunteer pathway within our organization, with the vision of effectively growing our own support workers. Their amazement at the increase of their own confidence and abilities has been genuinely lovely for our organisation to observe.
Initially we also had a few teething problems with the project, mainly around staff leaving posts and having to fill positions quickly. We adapted to ensure that the quality of the project wasn’t compromised during the period of uncertainty. It was important we learned to think on our feet and change things quickly. This didn’t deter our Friday Night Youth Club from going from strength to strength as the new coordinator, a driving force behind the project, provided much needed direction for the volunteers and support workers.
How Partners in Play has benefitted from the funding
The funding from Better Breaks has allowed us to trial a much-needed project for the young people attached to our organisation. At the core of this project has been the volunteer training programme which has created places for volunteers across all of our projects. The young people have enthusiastically responded to having mentors their own age supporting them. This is evident with the things that they have in common. Particularly with gaming and football helping to build up relationships quickly. In turn, the volunteers are learning about what it is like to have a disability and complex need and how this affects their everyday lives. There are now over 20 active volunteers participating in the youth club, all of them underwent an intensive 3-week training course took place which included: • Volunteer induction • Disability Awareness Training • First Aid Training • Moving & Handling Training • Safeguarding Children Training • Managing challenging behaviour Training At the end of the project one of the volunteers received further praise with the opportunity to be nominated for a ‘Diana Award’. This is an award that recognises young people for selflessly creating and sustaining positive social changes in memory of Diana Princess of Wales. The young boy had stood out to all staff at the youth club as being very involved and eager to help include and support our young people with ASN.
A personalised and fun, regular additional support needs youth club which the young people have enjoyed being involved with and which has helped to establish links in local community.
It was important that the young people had more of a participatory role within their youth club, particularly so with 2018 being, ‘The year of the Young Person’. The ethos of our organisation is underpinned by Children’s rights legislation and we wanted to ensure this permeated throughout our project. As such, our young people were directly involved in the planning of their group and had the opportunity to Co-design their own activity programme. The support workers and volunteers provided the necessary tools and visual aids for the young people with communication needs, making sure that all the views and needs of all young people were represented. A planning fun day was held at the beginning of the project, where the staff, volunteers and young people had the opportunity to meet and share ideas for their youth club. This was drawn up and signed by all the participants and became a mandate for action. It was then used at the end of the project as a measure of success and achievement.
Child A has a diagnosis of Autism and ADHD. He has a fairly unsettled home life and is currently living with foster parents. Upon his first outing to the club, he was withdrawn, unresponsive and displaying high levels of anxiety. He found it difficult to enter the building tightly clutching his wrestling figurines as a way of comforting himself. Eventually he was coaxed gently into the hall by the young volunteers and staff, who found that the wrestling figures could be used as way of communicating and helping him participate with planning activities. At the planning day, they asked the wrestlers what they would like to see on the programme, and this strategy was used at the beginning of sessions. During the visit with the Police Officer, Child A was completely uncooperative, sat with his hood up the entire time and even muttered ‘pig’ under his breath. Upon asking what was wrong with the police he stated that he didn’t trust them. The community police officer took notice of this and decided to make weekly ‘pop in’ visit to the youth club, interacting with the young people, playing computer games and table football. Throughout the weeks, the turnabout in Child’s A confidence and perception of the police has been remarkable. After numerous ‘winning’ gaming sessions he was suddenly racing to get into the building, referring to the officer as his buddy and most notably the wrestling figurines started staying in for the night. He’s been much chattier and when asked for his evaluation and thoughts of the youth club at the end of the project he stated that it was ‘safe here’ for him and he was worried it was going to ‘stop one day and he wouldn’t see his friends as much’. This regular club has fostered a safe place to build new friendships and hopefully participate in other clubs in his local community, he has expressed interest in a local gaming club. Visits from the community police have broken down fragmented perceptions of the role of the officers in his life and turned it into a positive experience.
Additional project outcome
Young people will have increased self-esteem, confidence and resilience.
The success of the project has been evident in the growing confidence and resilience of all involved. At the beginning of the project many of the young people were withdrawn and socially isolated, often not seeing any friends outside of school. When questioned at the beginning, their biggest hope from the project was that they would ‘have a club that was theirs with people who understood them’ Within the youth club, a sense of citizenship has been cultivated in the young people, planting the belief that they do matter and have the same rights as entitlements as other young people their own age. This has been promoted through active involvement into our quarterly organisational board meetings by a feeder group. The group also applied for Question time and have sat in young people participation meetings for North Lanarkshire Council. For the young people with complex needs, it has been a wonderful opportunity to attend a club independently without their parents. Child B has a diagnosis of Autism, Epilepsy and Cerebral Palsy. Before attendance, Child B was noticeably withdrawn and lacked confidence, with mum saying he was generally isolated in his room after school. In conversations and observations at the beginning of the project, support staff reported that he was incredibly shy and scared to talk to anyone, often preferring to stay at the back of the room in a safe space. The introduction of the volunteer mentors made a huge impact on his self-esteem and confidence as slowly to begin to move further down the hall, chat to the volunteers and play games with them and the other boys. He now contributes more to sessions and is vocal to staff about what he wants to do now, even asking for a visit from a footballer. Child B has really thrived from his sessions at the youth club and it has made a massive impact on his progress at school. This was evident after discussion with his speech and language therapist who noted that Child B has much more to contribute at group sessions in school, where before he remained silent as he had rarely ventured out the house, preferring to stay in his room. At a recent consultation, his parent stated that ‘he looks forward to his club every week and it is a real lifeline for him’.
Additional project outcome
Parents feel less anxious and concerned about the isolation and frustration of their young person and can spend the time looking after their own needs.
An initial consultation was arranged with parent/carers of young people aged 12-18 years. This was an informal consultation over coffee and cake. This was an opportunity to ask parent/carers what they would like to see happen with a regular club and what they want their young people to gain from attending this. This can be summarized with the following sentence: “We want a weekly youth club where our young people can feel welcomed and supported. We want them to socialise regularly with young people of a similar age and ability in a safe environment. We want a club where we feel comfortable to leave our young people and know the staff and volunteers and trained to meet their needs.” A secondary meeting with parent/carers took place during one of the youth clubs where they were asked for feedback on how they felt the club was going and if they would happy to make a small donation each week to help keep the youth club sustainable after the funding ceased. The parent/carers were all very enthusiastic and positive about the club. Everyone agreed that they wanted the club to continue and were more than happy to donate each week to cover the core running cost of the club. Some parents made suggestions about having fundraising activities to help go towards young people activities. There was an overwhelming response from the families that the youth club had made a huge difference to their young person as well as them. “My son loves the Friday club. I don’t know what I would do without it now” “my child thinks it’s great he has new friends” “My son loves coming here, he enjoys being able to be out on a Friday night to this time of night without us being there” “The girls like meeting up and doing girly things. I like knowing they are safe” One parent specifically highlighted the difference it had made to her own role as carer, which was the opportunity ‘to refresh her batteries for a few precious hours every week’